New York: Conscious and unconscious biases against lesbian women and gay men are decreasing across all demographic groups in the US, a new study shows.
The University of Virginia study shows that not only are the biases decreasing, but the trend also appears to be accelerating.
"Many people have this gut feeling that our culture has changed," said lead researcher Erin Westgate, a doctoral psychology student at the University of Virginia.
"We wondered whether people's attitudes were really changing, or if people today just feel more pressure to say they support lesbian and gay people," Westgate added.
The study appeared online in the journal Collabra, a new multidisciplinary journal from the University of California Open Press.
Building on previous research on self-reported attitudes, Westgate and co-authors analysed data collected from more than half a million people between 2006 through 2013.
The team found that implicit or "unconscious" bias against lesbian and gay people was 13 percent lower in 2013 than in 2006, suggesting that implicit bias has decreased substantially in recent years.
They also found that explicit, or self-reported bias decreased twice as much (26 percent) as implicit bias over the same seven-year period.
"Implicit biases can occur outside of conscious awareness or conscious control. People may know that they have them and not be able to control them. This is the first evidence for long-term change in people's implicit attitudes on a cultural level," said co-author Brian Nosek.
The authors also found that some people's attitudes were changing more quickly than others. Age, race and political orientation were the biggest predictors of attitude change.
"People today are genuinely more positive towards gay and lesbian people than they were just a decade ago," Westgate said.
The US Supreme Court's recent ruling legalising marriage between same-sex couples in all 50 states follows on the heels of national polls showing rapid cultural changes in attitudes toward lesbian and gay people.